Review: Ratlines by Stuart Neville

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Harvill Secker, 2013. Kindle edition. 454 KB. ASIN: B009A942OW. 416 pages. Epub ISBN: 9781448138128.

Ratlines is a work of fiction, therefore the events described have been entirely imagined, although some have been inspired by real people and places. The action is set in the Republic of Ireland in 1963. A German national has been found murdered in a guesthouse in Salthill, a small seaside town outside Galway City. Once his identity has been established, the case has been referred to the Justice Department. In Ireland, he was Heinrich Kohl, a small businessman who worked as an agent for several import and export companies. Elsewhere, he was SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmut Krauss of the Main SS Economic and Administrative Department. He had an envelope addressed to Otto Skorzeny. Inside the envelope a typed note read:

SS-Obersturmbannführer Skorzeny,
We are coming for you.
Await our call

The fact that Ireland was providing shelter to a former SS officer was a highly sensitive issue. Within a few weeks the President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy will be visiting the land of his ancestors, and it does not seem appropriate to bring to light this news just now. For this reason Lieutenant Albert Ryan, an investigator for the Irish Directorate of Intelligence is ordered by the current Minister for Justice, Charles J. Haughey in person, to investigate the crime and the threat to Skorzeny. 

Ryan, who had served in the British Army during The Emergency (the euphemistic name given at that time by the Government of the Republic of Ireland to the II World War) and, afterwards, in the Korea War, will have to face a moral dilemma: fulfil his duty or follow the dictates of his conscience.

As the plot unfolds, a diverse cast, some real others imaginary, will be appearing as Otto Skorzeny, Charles J Haughey, an attractive woman called Celia, and several enigmatic characters like a former member of Special Forces and a Mossad agent.

Rabbi Hempel sat in silence for a few seconds, gazing at Ryan across the desk, before he said, ‘I am not sure what alarms me more: that these people are permitted to come and live in peace in Ireland, or that your first assumption is that only a Jew could do such a thing.’

‘It is not my assumption, ‘ Ryan said.

The rabbi leaned forward. ‘And yet here your are.’

‘It’s a line of inquiry I was instructed to pursue by my superiors.’

‘Orders.’

‘Yes. Orders.’

Rabbi Hempel smiled. ‘So many men have simply followed orders. The men who shot my parents and my elder sister at the edge of a ditch they had just forced them to dig, they were following orders. Does that absolve them?’

Many are the aspects that can be highlighted in this historical thriller. The context in which the story unfolds has been researched in depth. The characters are extremely attractive and are superbly described. The storyline captured my attention from the beginning and I have discovered a part of Irish history unknown to me. Perhaps the end gets too convoluted for my taste. But I’ve enjoyed it very much and it’s worth reading.

My rating: 4/5.

Stuart Neville is a Northern Irish author. He is best known by a book series featuring Jack Lennon, The Twelve, aka The Ghosts of Belfast (2009), Collusion (2010), and Stolen Souls (2011). You can find my review of Collusion HERE. Ratlines is a standalone book.

Ratlines has been reviewed at The View From The Blue House (Rob), Crime Scraps Review (Norman), Euro Crime (Lynn), Euro Crime (Terry), Reviewing the evidence (Yvonne), Mrs. Peabody Investigates (Katharina), Irresistible Targets (Michael Carlson), Ms. Wordopolis Read (Rebecca), The Rap Sheet, Raven Crime Reads, among others.   

Stuart Neville webpage

About Stuart Neville

Random House

Soho Press

Ratlines de Stuart Neville

Ratlines (que podríamos traducir quizá como rutas de escape) es una obra de ficción, en consecuencia los hechos narrados han sido imaginados por completo aunque se han inspirado en algunas personas y lugares reales. La acción se desarrolla en la República de Irlanda en 1963. Un ciudadano alemán ha sido encontrado asesinado en una casa de huéspedes en Galway, una pequeña localidad costera cerca de la ciudad de Galway. Una vez que su identidad ha sido establecida, el caso ha sido remitido al Departamento de Justicia. En Irlanda, se trataba de Heinrich Kohl, un pequeño empresario que trabajaba como agente representando a varias empresas de importación y exportación. En otros lugares, se trataba del SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmut Krauss del Departamento Económico-Administrativo Principal de las SS. Tenía un sobre dirigido a Otto Skorzeny. Dentro del sobre una nota mecanografiada decía:

SS-Obersturmbannführer Skorzeny,
Vamos a por usted.
Espere nuestra llamada

El hecho de que Irlanda estaba dando refugio a un antiguo oficial de las SS era un tema muy delicado. Dentro de pocas semanas el Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, John F. Kennedy estará visitando la tierra de sus antepasados​​, y no parece apropiado sacar a la luz esta noticia en este momento. Por esta razón, el teniente Albert Ryan, un miembro de la Dirección de Inteligencia de Irlanda recibe la orden por parte del actual ministro de Justicia, Charles J. Haughey en persona, de investigar el crimen y la amenaza a Skorzeny.

Ryan, que había servido en el ejército británico durante La Emergencia (el eufemísmo dado en ese momento por el Gobierno de la República de Irlanda a la II Guerra Mundial) y más adelante en la Guerra de Corea, tendrá que enfrentarse a un dilema moral: cumplir con su deber o seguir los dictados de su conciencia.

A medida que la trama se desarrolla, un elenco diverso de personajes, algunos reales otros imaginarios, irán apareciendo como Otto Skorzeny, Charles J. Haughey, una atractiva mujer llamada Celia, y varios personajes enigmáticos como un capitán del SAS y un agente de Mossad.

Conforme se desarrolla la trama, un elenco varipinto, algunos reales otros imaginarios, irán apareciendo como Otto Skorzeny, Charles J. Haughey, una atractiva mujer llamada Celia, y varios personajes enigmáticos entre los que encontramos un antiguo miembro de las fuerzas especiales y un agente de la Mossad. 

El Rabino Hempel se sentó en silencio durante unos segundos, mirando a Ryan sobre la mesa, antes de decir: ‘No estoy seguro de qué me alarma más: que a estas personas se les permita venir a vivir en paz a Iralanda, o que su primera suposición sea que sólo un judio podría hacer una cosa así.”

“No es mi suposición, dijo Ryan.

El rabino se inclinó hacia delante. “Y sin embargo, aquí está.”

“Es una línea de investigación que debo seguir, por instrucción de mis superiores.

“Órdenes.”

“Sí. Órdenes.”

El Rabino Hempel sonrió. “Tantos hombres simplemente han seguido órdenes. Los hombres que dispararon a mis padres y mi hermana mayor en el borde de una zanja que ellos mismos se habían visto obligados a cavar, obedecían órdenes. ¿Acaso eso les absuelve?

Muchos son los aspectos que se pueden destacar en este thriller histórico. El contexto en el que se desarrolla la historia se ha investigado en profundidad. Los personajes son muy atractivos y están muy bien descritos. La historia me llamó la atención desde el principio y he descubierto una parte de la historia de Irlanda desconocida para mí. Tal vez el final se vuelve demasiado enrevesado para mi gusto. Pero lo disfruté mucho y merece la pena leerlo.

Mi valoración: 4/5.

Stuart Neville es un autor de Irlanda del Norte. Él es más conocido por una serie de libros protagonizados por Jack Lennon, The Twelve, aka The Ghosts of Belfast (2009), Collusion (2010), y Stolen Souls (2011). Puede acceder a mi reseña de Collusion AQUI. Ratlines es un libro independiente.

Books I’m Looking Forward To

‘Right at the end of the war, some Nazis saw it coming. They knew that even if they escaped, hundreds of others wouldn’t. They needed to set up routes, channels, ways out for their friends. Ratlines.’
Ireland, 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. He is the third foreign national to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey is desperate to protect a shameful secret: the dead men were all former Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government.
A note from the killers is found on the corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite WWII commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. It says simply: ‘We are coming for you. Await our call.’
Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate the crimes. But as he infiltrates Ireland’s secret network of former Nazis and collaborators, Ryan must choose between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? And who are the killers seeking revenge for the horrors of the Second World War? (Harvill Secker)

Detective Inspector Sean Duffy returns for the incendiary sequel to The Cold Cold Ground. Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close. Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood – however faint – that always, always connects a body to its killer. A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance. So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat … (Serpent’s Tail). Read chapters 1-8 HERE.

Search inside this book

In my previous post Review: Collusion – Stuart Neville, I forgot to add a link were you can read the first chapter . You can find it HERE.

En mi entrada anterior Complicidad de Stuart Neville, se me olvidó añadir un enlace donde se puede leer el primer capítulo. Se puede ver AQUÍ.

Review: Collusion – Stuart Neville

Esta entrada es bilingüe. Para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo.

Vintage, 2011. First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Harvill Secker. 356 pages. ISBN: 978-0-099-53535-5.

Collusion is the sequel to Stuart Neville’s debut novel The Twelve, a.k.a. The Ghosts of Belfast. The Twelve won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in April 2010. Carelessly, I started to read first the sequel and  even if I don’t think my estimation of the book would have been much different, it’s best to read them in chronological order. The action is set in Northern Ireland after the signing of the Good Friday Accord

After a stunning first chapter, in which the murder of three paramilitaries is narrated from the perspective of one of the victims, the story is told by three different characters. First Jack Lennon, a Catholic detective. He gave up his studies to join a mainly Protestant police force, after the murder of his brother. This decision cost him to break up with his family. His colleagues don’t trust him. His former girlfriend Marie McKenna, the mother of his only child, is a criminal gang leader’s daughter. He left her before the birth of his daughter Ellen.

Next is Garry Fegan, a former contract killer. He is now living in New York trying to cut all ties with his old life. Finally the Traveller, a merciless assassin. He has been hired by O’Kane, another paramilitary gang leader, to find and kill Garry Fegan.

After a bloodbath that took place at the end of The Twelve, Bull O’Kane was left seriously wounded at his farm in South Armagh. Very few survived. Now O’Kane wants to kill them all, whether they be man, woman or child. Garry Fegan, Marie McKenna and Ellen were there.

The narration is fluid moving at a frantic pace and alternating the different points of view. The story is action driven. The reader is soon immersed in the plot through an effective and concise prose. The story is hard, brutal at times, unsuitable for all sensitivities. Pure Noir. But, in my view, it loses momentum. At the end I found the book too long, with a few pages to spare. The characters, quite stereotypical, require more depth. Without giving away much, I found that some of their decisions are difficult to believe or to understand. But overall I enjoyed this book and I do not want to miss his next one. I fully agree with Matt Beynon Rees when he writes: It’s insight like this that makes “Collusion” a better way to understand Northern Ireland since its 1998 Good Friday peace agreement than any number of political science papers.

My rating is 4 out of 5.

Collusion has been reviewed by Laura Root at Euro Crime, Lynn Harvey at Euro Crime, Gerard Brennan at Crime Scene NI, Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction, Mike Stafford at Bookgeeks, Louise Laurie at The Bookbag, Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence, and Matt Beynon Rees at The Man of Twists and Turns.

Complicidad de Stuart Neville (Plata Editorial, 2011)

Complicidad es la continuación de la primera novela de Stuart Neville  Los fantasmas de Belfast, ganadora del Premio Los Angeles Times en abril de 2010 en la categoría de Misterio y Suspense. Por descuido, la empecé a leer primero y, aunque no creo que mi opinión del libro hubiera sido muy diferente, es mejor leerlos por orden cronológico. La acción se sitúa en Irlanda del Norte después de la firma del Acuerdo de Viernes Santo.

Después de un primer capítulo impresionante, en el que el asesinato de tres paramilitares está narrado desde la perspectiva de una de las víctimas, la historia la cuentan tres personajes diferentes. En primer lugar Jack Lennon, un detective católico. Abandonó sus estudios para unirse a una policía, principalmente protestante, tras el asesinato de su hermano. Esta decisión le costó romper con su familia. Sus compañeros no confían en él. Su ex novia, Marie McKenna, la madre de su única hija, es hija del jefe de una banda criminal. Se separó de ella antes del nacimiento de su hija Ellen.

El siguiente es Garry Fegan, un ex asesino a sueldo. En la actualidad vive en Nueva York tratando de cortar todos los lazos con su antigua vida. Por último, el Gitano, un asesino despiadado contratado por O’Kane, otro líder de una banda paramilitar, para encontrar y matar a Garry Fegan.

Después de un baño de sangre que tuvo lugar al final de Los fantasmas de Belfast, Bull O’Kane quedó gravemente herido en su granja en el sur de Armagh. Muy pocos sobrevivieron. Ahora O’Kane quiere matarlos a todos, ya sean hombres, mujeres o niños. Garry Fegan, Marie McKenna y Ellen se encontraban allí.

La narración resulta fluida y se mueve a un ritmo frenético, alternando los diferentes puntos de vista. La historia está impulsada por la acción. El lector pronto se sumerge en la trama a través de una prosa eficaz y concisa. La historia es dura, brutal a veces, no apta para todas las sensibilidades. Puro Noir. Pero, en mi opinión, pierde impulso. Al final encontré el libro muy largo, con unas pocas páginas de sobra. Los personajes, muy estereotipados, necesitan de una mayor profundidad. Sin revelar mucho, me encontré con que algunas de sus decisiones son difíciles de creer o de entender. Pero en general me gustó este libro y no quiero perderme su continuación. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con Matt Beynon Rees, cuando escribe:  “Son elementos como estos los que hacen de “Complicidad” una mejor manera de entender Irlanda del Norte a partir de los Acuerdos de Paz de Viernes Santo de 1998 que cualquier otra publicación de ciencia política.”

Mi calificación es de un 4 sobre 5.